What will you put in your vessel for the future?
- Note the top podcast includes just the sermon; the bottom includes the poem 38 by Layli Long Soldier read by Elena Tsai and Trevor Bechtel’s pastoral prayer
In March, I walked down the street and planted snap peas on the trellis at the preschool where no one went to preschool anymore.
At my other job, we don’t talk about the future. We talk about the preferred future.
In a bad week, my preferred future is to be left alone.
In a good week, my preferred future is that the future comes slowly.
When I graduated high school, some nice women at the church made me a quilt. When they asked what I wanted on it, I said stars. And mostly every color but not the color red.
When they gave me the quilt, it was every color but mostly red. There were stars on it.
Peas are the nicest vegetable I could give you.
Peas are expensive in the store.
They don’t even taste good. The peas from the store.
In my preferred future, the peas were going to grow up the trellis and I would harvest them for a few weeks, because my preferred future is selfish. And then the pandemic would be over and all the children would come back to school and ate the peas, and no one knew who planted them.
The actual future, which is now the past, was that the stay-at-home order ended in June and the teachers came back and pulled up my peas and planted tomatoes on the trellis.
The tomatoes did not grow very well on the trellis. I know this, because the plants are dead now.
The Bible says, “the parents have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge.”
I want to eat the wild grapes I see when I walk the dog but I am afraid they will be sour. Or poison.
In my preferred future, I eat the grapes. I also live.
Bernie Sanders said, “The greatest impediment to our future is the limits we put on our imagination.”
Bernie Sanders will not be the next president.
When I was 15, a dentist my parents’ age gave me braces. The dentist said I would wear them for a year.
I wore them for a year and a half.
When I had the braces on, I went to the San Juan Islands.
There are whales on the San Juan Islands.
Actually, there is only a museum for whales on the San Juan Islands. The whales are in the ocean.
Once, outside of the museum, there was a sculpture of a whale made out of trash.
The artist’s point was that today, whales’ bellies contain 60% trash because they suck in so much food from the ocean which is actually just trash.
In a bad week, my teeth are set so on edge that my head aches.
The difference between the future and the preferred future is the difference between what is likely and what is good.
I wanted to children to have the nicest vegetable no one could give them.
Instead, no one gave them nothing because someone pulled up no one’s plants to plant nothing.
I wish the children could go to school this fall.
I wish the children could do something more fantastical than going to school in the fall.
I wish it wouldn’t kill their parents to do it.
I used to think the only way out of climate change might be global pandemic. I didn’t really know what to do with that thought. I still don’t.
Mostly, in the Bible, when they say that people say the parents have eaten sour grapes and the children’s teeth are set on edge, they are saying that someday the people won’t say this anymore.
In the Bible they say, you say this now but in the future—the actual future, not the preferred one—you will not say it. It will not be true anymore.
That quilt with stars and the mostly red is still on my bed.
My neighbor in this house where the quilt with stars is planted milkweed for the monarch butterflies. Then she moved out.
The next neighbor pulled up the milkweed to regrade the yard so her basement wouldn’t flood like it was auditioning for the role of the water in Noah’s Ark.
The thing about monarchs is that every year when they migrate they go to exactly the same milkweed plant.
When I first got my dog, I spent a lot of time wondering how I would feel in 10 years when she died. It is strange to live with something you are supposed to outlive.
Sometimes, my dog gets excited and tears one of the seams of the quilt with stars on it.
You could say the monarchs are pretty stupid to think everything will be exactly where you left it when you leave it for a year.
The milkweed in my neighbor’s yard grew back.
In my preferred future, I spend a quiet night mending the quilt.
In my preferred future, there are monarch butterflies.
In my preferred future, there are also orca whales. They do not have trash in their bellies.
In my preferred future, there are all the animals, the way in Noah’s Ark there were all the animals.
Except the ones that weren’t there.
The writer Ocean Vuong, whom I don’t know but I know many people who know, says when he was a kid, he went to Baptist church and was fascinated with Noah’s Ark.
Ocean Vuong is Buddhist.
Ocean Vuong calls Noah’s Ark a story about the future.
Ocean Vuong describes the plot of Noah’s Ark as, “when the apocalypse comes, what will you put into the vessel for the future?”
I’m pretty sure the children are in preschool again.
I see the cars park and I see adults but I don’t really see the children.
The funny thing about Leila’s explanation a couple weeks ago that the sun will swallow the earth is that we’ll all be long dead.
The first week I moved here, someone told me there was a big chemical spill outside of town and in 1 to 100 years the water would be undrinkable.
A year ago, I asked Javan Miner what 1 to 100 years meant. Javan Miner studies groundwater engineering. He said studying poison is an inexact science.
He said probably 17.
In 17 years from a year ago I’ll be 48.
You could say it’s pretty stupid to think in 17 years everything will be exactly like it was 17 years ago.
In my preferred future, the water is still drinkable when I am 48.
Sometimes, the preferred future is a low bar.
I told two friends who are not homeowners that the water will probably be poison in 17 years, but that I am optimistic. I believe late-stage capitalism is still coherent enough that it will not affect my property value that much.
Sometimes, the preferred future is the best of two bad options.
There’s probably a preacher out there who will tell you the good news about the children’s teeth being set on edge is that Jesus is the braces you only need to wear for a day.
I think the good news about the children’s teeth being set on edge is that we do matter to each other. We are interdependent.
That’s why Noah needed all of the animals.
Sometimes your teeth are set on edge not because your parents ate sour grapes, but because some else’s parents picked sour grapes and stuffed them down your parents’ throats and then you popped out.
There is most likely PFAS in the water now.
It’s most likely low levels.
I haven’t asked the whales about it. I hear they are all pacifists.
Jonah did come out alive.
If the whale was Jonah, we would be Nineveh.
Rachel Held Evans, paraphrasing G.K. Chesterton wrote, “Fairy tales do not tell us monsters exist. They tell us monsters can be defeated.”
Biblical scholars will tell you Noah’s Ark is not part of the apocalyptic literature.
Biblical scholars have been wrong before.
I don’t hate Joe Biden, but I understand why my friends do. Their teeth are set on edge.
In my preferred future, the children’s teeth are no longer set on edge because their parents ate sour grapes.
In my preferred future, the children don’t need braces, either.
In my preferred future, every year I grow peas.
The peas are not poison.
It is possible salvation is not about God saving us, but God saving the animals. We were incidental.
Even if it’s stupid to expect everything to be where you left it 17 years ago, it’s perfectly reasonable to expect that there will be something good in 17 years.
I keep a book on my coffee table called The Impossible Will Take a Little While. Sometimes I read it.
The alternative isn’t that nobody’s teeth are set on edge. The Bible says the alternative is that everyone dies for their own sin and the teeth of everyone who eats sour grapes is set on edge.
This is a very individualist outlook.
In the future, if the children’s teeth are set on edge, I do not want to be the braces.
I want to be the anesthesiologist.
I wrote a song. The words are, “Here comes the apocalypse, what will you put in your vessel for the future?”
Sometimes you just need to know monsters can be defeated.
It’s not a very good song. There are many not very good songs in the world.
When I first got a dog, I thought a lot about mortality. Now I think a lot about when I will mend my quilt.
I believe it’s important to remember which impossible things you plan to do.
It’s possible Noah’s Ark is a fairy tale, in the Chestertonian sense.
Here comes the apocalypse. What will you put in your vessel for the future?